Hidden Indy: The Catacombs Beneath Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Back in the early nineties, my friend Dennis Williams was a Franciscan friar. We met doing volunteer work, and once we were working on a fundraiser together and we needed folding chairs. Dennis asked the staff of Sacred Heart Church (one of the oldest and the only Franciscan church in Indy) if they would donate the use of some chairs for the fundraiser. Dennis didn’t mention until we were in the church that we were going down into the catacombs beneath to retrieve them.

We took one set of stairs into a basement area, and then another set of stairs further down, into a series of tunnels cut into the rock and dirt that wind around underneath the church. Dennis knew where he was going, but I quickly lost my bearings and would have been in trouble if I didn’t have a guide.

The tunnels were musty and creepy, even more so because tucked into nooks and crannies in the tunnels were statuary from the church, antique furniture, old church pews, and the gaudily painted equipment for their bingo/casino nights. Dennis claimed that there were tombs in the catacombs, but I’m not sure if that was true, or if he was only saying that to creep me out.

We eventually found the cache of wooden folding chairs and made our way out, and none too soon for me. I purposely chose not to volunteer to return the chairs.

PLEASE NOTE: I was in the catacombs with permission, and this was over ten years ago! Since that time the church has had a catastrophic fire and restoration, so it’s possible that the catacombs don’t exist or are empty. Please don’t get it into your head to go and visit.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Leo Burkhardt

    Enjoyed your story. The tunnel you mentioned goes east and west under the nave of the church. The basement is now much cleaner and safer than when you toured (although strictly off limits to the uninvited) due to work done during the fire restoration and subsequent improvements. The church is truly beautiful again, with air conditioning, restroom facilities and new steeple copper in addtion to the millions spent on the interior fire restoration. The steeples you can see looking south on Penn at Ohio belong to her and it is well worth the drive down. Tours are given by appointment and there always seats available for the Masses.

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